Wednesday, 22 April 2020 09:55

MPI’s hotline runs hot

Written by  Peter Burke
MPI director general Ray Smith says the primary sector has worked individually and collectively to find solutions for working in the COVID-19 environment. MPI director general Ray Smith says the primary sector has worked individually and collectively to find solutions for working in the COVID-19 environment.

MPI has received hundreds of calls from businesses in the food and beverage sectoring wanting to ensure that they are correctly complying with COVID-19 requirements.

Director general Ray Smith says these calls are coming in via their 0800 number and MPI is providing a lot of support in that area. He says the volume of calls is so great that, on occasions, it has taken longer than they would like to get back to people.

“We have continued to run our verification process. Several thousand businesses have either been contacted by phone or visited directly as we take a look at the safety practices that they have put in place,” Smith told Rural News

“One thing we can say is that everybody has taken a step up and treated this seriously on behalf of their employees, the families of those employees and the communities that those people live in to make sure that they don’t contribute to any disease spread.” 

Smith says employers know that their staff may be going home to family members who might be more vulnerable, and they don’t want them to bring the disease back from the workplace. 

“We have been delighted with what we have seen so far.”

He says it’s been terrific to see that all the key institutions in the primary sector, such as the likes of Fonterra and the various industry good organisations,  are working individually and collectively to find solutions for working in the COVID-19 environment and making a point of sharing this information with each other

“That’s tremendous for NZ and if we keep doing that, the country will come out of this in a very strong position. We have got the ability to turn something, which is pretty terrible into something positive,” he says.

Smith praises staff

Smith says he’s pretty proud of the way the MPI staff are going at the moment given the challenges they face. 

He says his staff have spent a lot of time talking to business, industry and local government leaders to understand their needs and what support MPI can give them. Smith says for many rural areas the drought and the flow-on effects of are worrying for many regional communities.

“We have been working hard to establish good feed budgeting systems for farmers who are struggling and are not quite sure where to turn to next.” 

Smith says MPI have been referring these farmers to DairyNZ and Beef+LambNZ where someone will talk to them and help them with a feed budget. He says they have also been giving advice to farmers on animal welfare issues.

“A lot of work is being done with the meat industry to make sure we head off problems in the future in what are quite uncertain times,” he told Rural News. “What I observe is that everyone across the industry, including MPI, are talking on a regular basis and offering support so that nobody feels like they have to do it on their own.” 

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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